People wander the grounds of Wendy's headquarters for one day each fall to ogle Italian cars and motorcycles.

People wander the grounds of Wendy's headquarters for one day each fall to ogle Italian cars and motorcycles.

Rita Soronen, executive director of the Dave Thomas Foundation, which benefits from the Sept. 5 Italian Gathering, understands the cars are the focal point of the event; she's just happy they picked her group to aid.

"We are always so proud of our partners that unselfishly step in. You wouldn't think a car enthusiast would step in and help with a group that helps children," she said. "As Dave Thomas used to say, 'These children aren't someone else's responsibility. Anybody can step in and understand that these children are in our backyard.'"

The Dave Thomas Foundation works locally and nationally to find children in foster care a permanent home.

According to Soronen, the organization founded in 1992 by Thomas - an adoptee himself - helps children in foster care through awareness and grants to adoption groups.

"We do it in two ways that are really parallel. First is raising awareness about the need and about the issue, letting people know across the national that there are 123,000 children in foster care," she said, adding that in Franklin County about 400 children do not have permanent homes. "There are a significant number of children that are waiting for adoptive families."

The Dublin-based group also works to inform people on the adoption process and connecting them with local adoption groups.

Grants are also given to adoption groups that effectively and quickly find families for children in foster care; the foundation has a program called Wendy's Wonderful Kids that focuses on this.

"We give grant dollars to organizations all over the nation that use this model to get these children adopted and we commit to them for the long haul," Soronen said. "The Italian Gatherings in part not only benefits the Dave Thomas Foundation; we dedicate some of those dollars to our local Wendy's Wonderful Kids. We give grants to those organizations that are held accountable to reaching adoption goals."

The Dave Thomas Foundation has been helped by proceeds from the Italian Gathering for the five years the event has been going on; Soronen said the event has provided more than $60,000.

The Dave Thomas Foundation will be at the Sept. 5 Italian Gathering. Soronen said they're more than happy to talk about their group at the event, but the cars will likely receive more attention.

"First and foremost, people interested in Italian cars love coming to events like this, so there's a natural audience," she said. "They all enjoy knowing the little they give to participate will do good."

The Italian Gathering, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 5 at Wendy's headquarters, 1 Dave Thomas Blvd., and will feature vehicles including the Alfa Romeo, De Tomaso, Ferrari, Fiat, Lancia, Lamborghini, Maserati and Pantera. The show will also include a Lamborghini Countach reunion; organizers are expecting 25 examples.

Other featured autos include two Lamborghini Diablo and the all-terrain, four-wheel drive Lamborghini LM002.

Admission to the Italian Gathering is free, but parking is $5 per car. Vehicle registration into the show is $35 the day of the show and $25 for motorcycle registration.

For more information on the Italian Gathering, look online at

Look online at for more information on the Dave Thomas Foundation.